Musicians and co-operatives are meant for each other; they both have a need to work together to create a beautiful masterpiece.
So it should not surprise anyone that music co-operatives are in existence. Already in tune with the need to work collectively, many orchestras already operate on a democratic basis.
But those in formal co-operative structures never play second fiddle to anybody and the conductor is only the boss on the platform. It’s the way it should be.
Music has always been rooted in communities – and brass bands are the finest example of this in towns and villages. Of course, it’s not just co-operatives that have supported local brass bands, but the ‘Co-op’ bands are among the most famous.
Like co-operatives, local music projects have been creating a sense of community since the 19th century by bringing people together with a shared interest and allowing them to make a small difference.
In a step up from groups of co-operators singing co-operative hymns at conferences and joining hands with Auld Lang Syne, groups of professional musicians have seen co-operatives as a way to conduct their business in a tough industry.
A heavily capitalist industry that gives a small slice of earnings to musicians is a great story for the co-operative movement to help tackle. And exactly why co-ops exist in the first place.
Sotones, a Southampton recording studio, is a major example of working against the system by pooling expertise and resources, while elsewhere music teachers have realised they don’t have to scale back operations following reductions in council funding.
With austerity cuts, the Musicians’ Union is getting behind worker co-operatives as a model for teachers to collaborate and to preserve jobs.
Mixing social care and sustainability, with music and the co-operative structure, is also a win. The Italian co-operative Lunezia shows creativity at its best by recycling everyday objects into musical instruments as a way to get people interested in music.
In a time of economic uncertainty and high unemployment, especially among the youth, there is a need to ensure a different way of working together is more widely known – and music, in its many forms, is another good way to get that message out.
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